Watching your Parents Age from a Distance, (revisited)

Week two of my visit home continues.

I remain ever so proud of both my mom and dad. Both continue to do exercises so that they can make the most of their seventy-four year old bodies. Mom positions herself by the kitchen sink while we practice stretching and standing. Dad is now with his nursing home therapists transferring from his wheelchair to the shower room chair. This is a major goal in his ongoing battle for greater independence. The two of them are as upbeat as one may expect. They are remarkable in their perseverance.

My mom moves slowly but is as sharp and as funny as ever. She talked with me for over ninety minutes, last night. We had more than a few yucks. Currently, she is looking for a loaner guitar so she can start taking lessons at our local senior center. This has the making of hilarious possibilities.

My dad and I needed a good day. Yesterday was a very dark day for both of us. He told me how difficult life is for him at this time. He stated that he is lonelier now than at any time in his life. Dad loves the company of others more than most. When he is alone, he is truly difficult to witness. He is having a tough time sleeping at night.

Thankfully, He was able to move into a larger room by a window that overlooks a forest. Prior to this, he asked the head nurse,” What…do I have to wait for someone to die before I can get into another room?”

Dad eats all of his “hospital food” placed in front of him. He reminds me each day that when you are in a hospital, to clean your plate. He pushes himself to stay strong. He has long ago surpassed all my expectations so now I just sit with him and congratulate him on all of his successes.

I have never known my dad to ever be lonely. Seeing him struggle with life in a nursing home is quite difficult. He seems not intellectually challenged by his conversations with the staff and residents of his home. Dad is still able to complete a New York Times daily crossword puzzle with ink. Contrast that with contemporaries suffering from depression, boredom and dementia of some sort and you have a brutally tough environment to grow.

To put it simply, my dad needs visitors.

Thankfully, he had smiles for me as I left today. He rejoiced when seeing Tom Watson make the cut at the British Open.

Both of my parents continue to live one day at a time. Both continue to teach me lessons that I will keep forever.

Reader, especially expat teachers, if you have parents that are in the later stages of life, I sincerely wish you all the luck in the world. There are no secrets or hints that can help you. You truly are a bit helpless to affect much change.

Time, understanding and companionship are my only gifts that I can give them. 

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“What are you going to focus on now that testing is over?”

#4thchat asks, “What are you going to focus on now that testing is over?”

This question makes me delighted that I am out of the US Public Schools’ system. My entire public school career loomed with the specter of school restructuring.  Thankfully, international schools generally do not put too much emphasis on standardized testing.

This one fact is a definitive improvement in quality of life. Fortunately, standardized tests are just a small piece of the assessment puzzle. Teaching without a looming threat of school de-certification really allows me to work on my craft.

Living overseas, I have been able to focus on learning-based curriculum. I still assess, however. My assessments are more for learning and not of learning. This has made all the difference. In short, my student assessments directly affect my teaching practice. They are more meaningful and viewed as more credible to all the stakeholders

International schools, from my experience, focus more on learning and not achievement. That said, we still spend some time with standardized testing. Mercifully, this time goes by quickly and we can go back to teaching the curriculum. This is a tremendous positive shift in my practice.

Reading today’s New York Times article further proves my point. Students are the losers in this game. Parents are rightfully scared that their kids will not get a proper education. Teachers must improve scores while not necessarily improving learning. This is inherently sad.

I will not try to offer solutions to the education reform movement. However, I offer that there are alternatives to the United States method of educating youth. I delight in the surge in online learning from Khan Academy. I connect students to Ted-Ed.com. I pay attention to folks such as Sir Ken Robinson, Punya Mishra and Sugata Mitra. I dream of a future where challenged based learning is the norm. I find myself energized by accomplishments of countries such as Finland.

If you are an American public school teacher, what are your thoughts on the standardized testing development?

Best of luck as you endure yet another year of high stakes testing.